Ferric Uptake Regulator Fur Is Conditionally Essential in Pseudomonas aeruginosa

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In Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the ferric uptake regulator (Fur) protein controls both metabolism and virulence in response to iron availability. Differently from other bacteria, attempts to obtain fur deletion mutants of P. aeruginosa failed, leading to the assumption that Fur is an essential protein in this bacterium. By investigating a P. aeruginosa conditional fur mutant, we demonstrate that Fur is not essential for P. aeruginosa growth in liquid media, biofilm formation, and pathogenicity in an insect model of infection. Conversely, Fur is essential for growth on solid media since Fur-depleted cells are severely impaired in colony formation. Transposon-mediated random mutagenesis experiments identified pyochelin siderophore biosynthesis as a major cause of the colony growth defect of the conditional fur mutant, and deletion mutagenesis confirmed this evidence. Impaired colony growth of pyochelin-proficient Fur-depleted cells does not depend on oxidative stress, since Fur-depleted cells do not accumulate higher levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and are not rescued by antioxidant agents or overexpression of ROS-detoxifying enzymes. Ectopic expression of pch genes revealed that pyochelin production has no inhibitory effects on a fur deletion mutant of Pseudomonas syringae pv. tabaci, suggesting that the toxicity of the pch locus in Fur-depleted cells involves a P. aeruginosa-specific pathway(s). IMPORTANCE Members of the ferric uptake regulator (Fur) protein family are bacterial transcriptional repressors that control iron uptake and storage in response to iron availability, thereby playing a crucial role in the maintenance of iron homeostasis. While fur null mutants of many bacteria have been obtained, Fur appears to be essential in Pseudomonas aeruginosa for still unknown reasons. We obtained Fur-depleted P. aeruginosa cells by conditional mutagenesis and showed that Fur is dispensable for planktonic growth, while it is required for colony formation. This is because Fur protects P. aeruginosa colonies from toxicity exerted by the pyochelin siderophore. This work provides a functional basis to the essentiality of Fur in P. aeruginosa and highlights unique properties of the Fur regulon in this species.
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